Hyundai A-League preview: Mariners v Victory

​Can the Mariners build on their champagne win on New Year's Eve, or will the champions feel right at home at Geelong's Simonds Stadium on Friday night?

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MATCH DETAILS

Friday, 8 January 2016

Simonds Stadium, Geelong

Kick-Off: 7:40 PM (Local) (7:40 PM (AEDT))

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT), SBS TWO from 7:30pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 92.5 ABC Central Coast, 774 ABC Melbourne, ABC Local Radio Vic, ABC Grandstand Digital, online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live. Crocmedia A-League Live (www.facebook.com/A-leagueLIVERadio)

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #CCMvMVC

To purchase tickets visit www.a-league.com.au/tickets

Central Coast Mariners squad: 2.Storm ROUX, 3.Josh ROSE, 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5.Harry ASCROFT, 6.Mitch AUSTIN, 7.Fabio FERREIRA, 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 13.Alastair BRAY (GK), 15.Matthew SIM, 16.Liam ROSE, 17.Francesco STELLA, 19.Josh BINGHAM, 20.Anthony KALIK, 21.Michael NEILL, 22.Jake McGING, 23.Tomislav USKOK, 40.Tom HEWARD-BELLE (GK)

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 12.Trent BUHAGIAR (new signing), 15.Matthew SIM (promoted), 13.Alastair BRAY (GK) (new signing), 17.Francesco STELLA (new signing), 20.Anthony KALIK (promoted)

Alastair Bray has signed with the Central Coast Mariners until the end of the 2015/16 Hyundai A-League season. Image: Jason Pratt

Outs: 9.Roy O’DONOVAN (suspended – 8 matches), 14.Daniel HEFFERNAN (not selected), 30.Adam PEARCE (GK)

Unavailable: 1.Paul IZZO (GK) (Olyroos duty)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Jai INGHAM, 33.Joey KATEBIAN

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 4.Nick ANSELL (returns from injury), 7.Gui FINKLER (returns from injury), 19.George HOWARD (promoted), 23.Jai INGHAM (new signing), 33.Joey KATEBIAN (promoted)

Gui Finkler is set to return from injury against the Mariners on Friday night.

Outs: 2.Jason GERIA (Olyroos duty), 11.Connor PAIN (Olyroos duty), 24.Thomas DENG (Olyroos duty)

Unavailable: 3.Scott GALLOWAY (Olyroos duty), 15.Giancarlo GALLIFUOCO (Olyroos duty), 21.Carl VALERI (ill – indefinite)

Referee: Peter Green

Assistant Referee 1: Luke Brennan

Assistant Referee 2: Wilson Brown

Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure

#CCMvMVC

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

Both these sides ended long, win-less runs last time out so this clash in Geelong looms as an opportunity to build some momentum for the second half of the season.

The Mariners have decided to take their ‘home’ match to Victoria and whether that is a wise move will be known around 9.30pm Friday night.

At least Tony Walmsley’s side should have a spring in their step coming into this one.

They continued their impressive NYE record by beating Wellington 3-1 and have a full three days extra than Victory to recover and prepare for the match.

Mariners players celebrate a goal in their 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix.

Could that be the catalyst for a mid-season revival?

Victory will say the answer to that question is no, with Kevin Muscat’s side believing they have turned the corner themselves following their 1-0 win over the Jets last Sunday.

It was far from vintage Victory but after five games without a win previous to that, any method of getting the three points will do.

With an ACL campaign looming fast on the horizon, Victory will want to bank as many points as they can over the next month to ensure they are there come finals time. 

A game against the competition’s bottom side will be one they'll have chalked down for all three.

In a boost for Victory, Brazilian Gui Finkler is back from injury, as is defender Nick Ansell. The Mariners three new signings this week have also traveled to Geelong as and could make their debuts.

OPTA DATA

-After their last start win against Wellington, the Mariners will be searching for consecutive Hyundai A-League victories for the first time since April 2014.

-Melbourne Victory has won their last six Hyundai A-League matches against Central Coast and hasn’t lost to the Mariners since the 2013/14 finals.

-The Mariners have made 370 interceptions so far this Hyundai A-League season, by far the most of any team (Phoenix second on 311).

-Victory have yet to win back-to-back away Hyundai A-League games this season but will do that with a win here after a 1-0 triumph at Newcastle last round.

ROUTE TO GOAL

It will be interesting to see what Walmsley does with his main striking option in the wake of O’Donovan’s suspension.

The Irishman has been an ever-present this season but now set for a stint on the sideline, the Mariners need to find a new no.9.

Youngster Josh Bingham has impressed off the bench in recent weeks and appears certain to start up front. 

Josh Bingham in action against the Victory.

Whoever gets the nod will hope Mitch Austin and Fabio Ferreira can reproduce the form they showed last round. The pair were outstanding on the flanks and their pace and crossing will be key in this one.

Youngster Michael Neill also showed some good signs in the ‘no.10’ role and his combination with those wingers is the Mariners best hope of causing an upset.

For Victory, surprisingly, their attack continues to struggle. There’s been little fluency or drive out of midfield over the last month and as a result the goals have dried up.

The absence of Connor Pain on Olyroos duty takes away another option but veteran Archie Thompson has been back a few weeks now and could be ready to explode.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah got his second goal of the campaign against the Jets and Muscat will hope that’s a sign the Tunisian is almost back to his best.

Victory players celebrate Fahid Ben Khalfallah's second-half strike against the Jets.

And if he is – with Finkler back and Berisha also in the mood – Victory’s mojo in front of goal might just start to flow again.

The Mariners are the only side this season yet to keep a clean sheet which also augurs well for Victory.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Fabio Ferreira. The Portuguese flyer returned to the starting side last weekend and it’s no surprise the Mariners found the firepower to register a rare win, his performance also earning him a spot in the A-League Team of the Week.

FORM LINES

Mariners: LLLLW

Victory: LLLDW

PREDICTION 

Central Coast Mariners 1-2 Melbourne Victory